Saul Marcus, ND - Naturopathic Doctor

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Earthwise Herbal Books Review

Earthise Herb guide to old world plantsEarthwise herbal guide to new world plants

Matthew Wood two book; A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants and A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants are more than just another herbal materia medica.

The books describe herbs according to traditional uses and empirical observation. The character of each herb is described. Not just if an herb is warming, cooling or an astringent, but even much more detailed information. For example, Yarrow is described not just as a common herb for women or for bleeding, but the characteristic of for someone who gets "cut to the bone," is explained.

So many description of herbs on website -and unfortunately also in books, do not describe herbs constitutionally. They will tell you what her can be used for what disease, but little more. Such herbal description, as well meaning as they are, are basically allopathic descriptions which not only do not teach the individual characteristics of each herb, but reinforce the concept of treating the disease instead of treating the person.

Mat hew Wood avoids all of this. The introductory chapters in each book teach how to think like an herbalist. By this I mean, how to look at someone as an individual and match up herbs not to the disease but to underlining pathologies. So going back to the example of Yarrow, it's described for it's use in moving heat out. Something that means little from an allopathic model of treating the disease.

Another example of this is in his description of various lymphagogues. Instead of being told that Red Root is very, but Poke Root can also be used there is Cleavers which is cooling, Calendula which is warming, Blue Flag for hard nodules cysts, Poke Root for larger water filled cysts, and more. In description of Poke Root, like with Yarrow and many other herbs are psychological traits as well.

The books give you a sense of knowing the herbs and what type of person they will work on.

Everything is unapologetically based in traditional western herbalism. Elaborate descriptions of various "active ingredients" and what they supposedly do is thankfully absent. Herbs are indeed complex medicines that typically can not be reduced down to on "active ingredient." In my opinion - theories about how these active ingredients work may seem at first "scientific," but the upon closer examination are based more upon theory than anything else. Furthermore (again, this is my opinion, not from the books) is an obsession in some circles with having to reduce herbs down to the "active ingredient," and delineating precise "mechanism of action," as if this was for the most part possible.

What you end up with is lots of complex material that isn't at the end clinically useful unless someone translates it into "use X herb for Y disease."

Clinically speaking what matters to me as a Naturopathic Doctor, is knowing what person needs Blue Flag, and who needs Red Clover, or some other herb. What matters is a constitutional description of the herb and it's action on the whole body, as known from real world clinical observation.

These two books are not simply clinically relevant. They are gifts to the world of natural health, not just as and herbal materia medica, but for how these descriptions teach the read to think like an herbalist should.

The Earthwise Herbal books sit on the desk in my office and my clients know I reference them frequently. This review can not do these books justice - as these are not just the best books I've read on herbal medicine, but among the very best book I have about natural health in general.

For anyone who wants to understand how to practice herbalism I can not recommend these books enough.